Sunday, December 18, 2011

REVIEW: Live Writing: Breathing life into your words

Fletcher, R.  (1999).  Live Writing:  Breathing life into your words.  New York:  Avon Books, Inc.

131 pages.

Appetizer:  As part of his series on writing, in Live Writing Ralph Fletcher describes tools to help middle grade readers bring their writing to life.

With accessible terms, examples and writing from his own, other published authors as well as the writings of third to seventh graders, Fletcher describes ways to bring stories to life, focusing on character, voice, conflict and setting.  He also discusses having a strong beginning or lead, a satisfying end, vivid details and golden lines.  In culmination, Fletcher unpacks a 7th grader's writing sample for all of these aspects.

This writing guide also include advice from some other authors related to the concepts Fletcher highlighted.  (Alas, since this book was published in 1999, some of the authors, while excellent, are not as commonly referred to as those included in some other writing guides for children (like Rip This Page.)  Along those same lines, Fletcher references some picturebooks and middle grade novels that, while classic, also felt a little dated.

Overall, there is some excellent advice in Live Writing.  This is a great resource to have in a classroom to help middle grade authors improve their creative writing.

Dinner Conversation:

"This book is based on the simple idea that every writer has a toolbox.  Instead of awls and hammers, a writer's toolbox contains words, imagination, a love of books, a sense of story, and ideas for how to make the writing live and breathe" (p. 2).

"By "live writing" I mean the kind of writing that has a current running through it--energy, electricity, juice.  When we read live writing, the words seem to lift off the page and burrow deep inside us.  My goal in writing this book is to help you make your writing come alive" (p. 3).

"Writers don't read like other people.  Writers are interested in what's going to happen, of course, but they are also keenly interested in finding out how the author created the effect." (p. 10)

"Your writing voice is like a handshake; it makes the connection with the reader" (p. 42)

"Setting does matter.  Stories (history) happen in a particular place.  Martin Luther King, Jr., got locked in a jail in Selma, Alabama.  That place will be forever linked with this event.  Wilbur and Charlotte became friends in that dusty old barn.  Describing the setting is more than just a necessary chore--it's a crucial element in making your writing deeper and richer."  (p. 67)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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